LOCAL LAD George Ford put World Cup heartbreak behind him to become a key member of the England Rugby Union team that won the Grand Slam.
The 23-year-old from Grasscroft was ever present at fly half in the RBS Six Nations Tournament as England won all five games.
It was the first time England had achieved a Grand Slam since 2003 and months before Clive Woodward’s team won the World Cup.
The Grand Slam was achieved with victory against France and nobody was more proud than George’s parents Mike, the Bath RU coach, and Sally-Ann who were in Paris to witness England achieve it for only the 13th time, the first being in 1913.
Mike said: “Sally Ann went to all the games, but I couldn’t because of my commitments at Bath, but I was able to get to the decider.
“It was a great achievement, more so as it came so soon after a disappointing World Cup when we failed to get through the group stage.
“The turnabout from that low to winning the Grand Slam in such a short space of time was remarkable.”
Mike added he knows how hard Grand Slams are to achieve.
He explained: “I was part of the coaching teams for nine Six Nations – five for England and four for Ireland – and we never won one.
“With Ireland, we lost the Grand Slam to England and in 2011 England lost to Ireland when we had the chance so I know how difficult it was to achieve.
“And England’s World Cup winning team of 2003 only ever won one Grand Slam which again underlines that.”
Mike was also delighted with the way George, a former pupil ay Knowsley Primary, has overcome adversity after being relegated to being a replacement in the World Cup.
He said: “To play 10 consecutive games for England and then be overlooked for the big ones in the World Cup was tough to take.
“I went through highs and lows in my playing career, but you don’t achieve anything by dwelling on them.
“George came back to Bath after the World Cup and wanted to play straightaway and did that weekend.”
New England coach Eddie Jones, with whom Mike worked on the coaching staff at Saracens, has described George as “poetry in motion”.
Mike said: “Eddie has given George his chance and he has been solid without being spectacular.
“Eddie knows George will still only be aged 27 in four years’ time and realises he has great potential.”
Mike added he has been in and around the England camp on a number of occasions and has been impressed with Jones.
He said: “In some ways he is old school and in others has a modern-day approach, and he pays very much attention to detail.
“Eddie has a relaxed approach and his man management has been very good as we saw in the Six Nations.”
And Mike believes the future is bright for England pointing out this is a young side with the likes of George, Owen Farrell, Anthony Watson and Jack Nowell.
He said: “It is a very young team and we ought to have the nucleus for many years to come.
“Obviously they will lose one of two games but that is part of growing as a player, but England should be there or thereabouts for a number of years.”